Thursday, March 24, 2011

Old News

Habs, Bruins Players and Fans Hate Each Other

Yesterday's main story around Montreal revolved around the words spoken by Mark Recchi on Boston radio.

The second-hand account is that Recchi came out and flagrantly stoked the rivalry by questioning the severity of Pacioretty's injury.

I had no reason to doubt that that is what happened, but I thought I might as well do a bit of due diligence and listen to the radio interview rather than taking twitter's word for matters. What I heard from the Felger and Mazz, the "reporters" who question Canadiens reporting under the banner of "Fact. Not opinion" (in their opinion).

What I heard was typical sports "journalism". The two jockeys jockeyed by reading one article on the internet and speaking about it for 10 minutes. "Let me be more direct: Does it bother you that they embellished it?". Mark goes on to agree, that it bothered him. He even said the team embellished the extent of the injuries. I don't think he said that Pacioretty embellished anything. After all, one can't embellish a broken vertebrae or a concussion, and he was certainly told to lay perfectly still lest do damage to his spine.

Recchi was a bit irresponsible to make those comments. I certainly don't like them, but they are hardly worse than the extremely insensitive ones Patrice Bergeron made mere minutes after the hit, proving himself to be a hypocrite of the highest degree.

I think we've learned a few things from this whole debacle. The first is that fans and hockey players don't necessarily see things the same way. Just because Mark Recchi has been slammed into the turnbuckle 40 times in his career doesn't give me any more reason to want to see any player slammed into it in the future. There are certain plays that some hockey fans could do without. I can only speak for myself, and my own reaction, when I say that it is those future plays I wanted to see eliminated.

I'm no sure it's a learning, but we've also seen the depth of the hatred between Montreal and Boston. We revile what the Brutes refer to as "Bruins (Brutish) hockey". We watch enough games to know that their brand of hockey is not essential to the entertainment value of the sport. The hatred between cities goes deeper than that though., to the point that fans on both sides can explain away anything using their own particular bias. This is the root of the embellishment story, a long-time Boston mantra that protects them against hating their own bullying. If Montreal players and fans are embellishing the effects of their roughness, then it can't possibly be going too far. They cling to one example from Mike Ribeiro, not exactly a hero for Montrealers either.

Recchi partook in this game, just as other Bruins did, precisely because he is a Bruin and he is immersed in the thinking that engulfs that team's fans, and to some extent the whole underdog city (oh, New York is so close).

But let's not pretend that Montreal and its fans aren't on the hook here too. Some people have gone over the top. And because of that, it's easy to see where outsiders get these ideas about the cloud affecting the city's judgment. I don't think the Habs organization was anything less than sincere in wanting to eradicate violent hits in the wake of Max's injury. However, I do think a large portion of Habs fans were more concerned with Chara's suspension than any waves that might be sent through NHL rule-making circles. i can tell you this based on response we got before and after a suspension announcement.

And Montreal knows it's dealing with a sensitive underdog in Boston. And Montreal must recognize that it takes great joy from poking the dog to get a response. It is the custom for Sportswriters in our city to overdo things before a Brutes game. Everything will be payback, epic, better than ever before. This is the case again today. The Recchi story has been blown up to the size it has to make this game more significant.

Vezina trophy
And don't tell me Boston fans have no reason to suggest that Habs fans are a little bit self-centered. In the midst of Tim Thomas laying down some of the best statistics to be recorded since recording began, the call from Montreal is that Carey Price should get the Vezina instead.

I'm all for riling the Boston fans too. But let's recognize when we're doing it.

About hockey

The rest of Mark Recchi's intervew (most people no doubt tuned out to twitter long before) really emphasizes that Bruins desire to make the game about the result, to make the contest tonight about hockey.

I think Recchi recovered from the lapse to make a good point here. And it was one emphasized by Julien as he faced the rabid Montreal media: that the upcoming hockey game should be about the points, about the goals and the saves.

Let's not forget that amid our calls for justice and change those that went beyond hatred for the Bruins had this at the heart of our desires. We asked hockey games to be about hockey, to have hockey without the nonsense of staged fighting, unprovoked attacks and reckless hits.

Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail thinks revenge is going out of style and that the Pacioretty aftermath is proof of that. I would like to think he's right and that retribution and troglodyte codes can be filed for another sport to use.

It remains to be seen if the Bruins will toe the line being laid down by their coach and their elder statesman, whether the jumped-up forwards can subdue some of their natural urges. I for one hope they will. And then maybe we can talk about the Pacioretty hit and its aftermath changing the game for the better.

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